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Far East Kingdoms

Early Cultures


Early East Asia

FeatureEast Asia is one of the five broad regions of Asia as a whole. Of those, it would appear to be South Asia which witnessed the earliest presence of anatomically modern humans in the form of Homo sapiens - between about 70,000-60,000 BC as they left Africa and the Near East. Other groups headed north-westwards to enter East Asia roughly around 60,000 BC (see the Hominid Chronology feature link for more).

East Asia incorporates all of the territory to the east of Central Asia. This includes areas which formed parts of Early China, plus modern Mongolia, North Korea, South Korea, the islands which formed Early Japan, plus Taiwan, and Tibet. The north-eastern corner of Russia can sometimes also be included in this group, providing a cornerstone between that and Siberia. China and Tibet provide the regional border with the countries of South Asia and South-East Asia.

FeatureThe early East Asians found Homo erectus populations still extant, but quickly out-competed them so that this long-established early human species was extinct before about 30,000 BC (see feature link). It was Homo erectus which provided the archaeological predecessor to the East Asian Palaeolithic, in the form of the Zhoukoudian Tradition. The type site for this is Zhoukoudian (Chou-k'ou-tien in older works), in China's Beijing municipality, where so-called Peking Man was discovered.

FeatureThe system which has evolved to catalogue the various archaeological expressions of human progress is one which involves cultures. For well over a century, archaeological cultures have remained the framework for global prehistory. The earliest cultures which emerge from Africa are perhaps the easiest to catalogue, right up until human expansion reaches the Americas. The task of cataloguing that vast range of human cultures is covered in the related feature (see link, right).

The origins of 'Asia' as a name appear to lay in a confederacy in western Anatolia known as Assuwa or Assua (Arzawa). Certainly by about 1400-1300 BC this confederacy had already been formed by a number of regional minor states which, collectively, were allied to the Hittite empire which dominated Anatolia at that time. The city of Troy (or Wilusa) was also a member of this confederacy.

FeatureHowever, a far older word could be the basis of the 'Asia' name. This option relates to the Indo-Europeans and their spread from the Pontic-Caspian steppe to dominate Central Asia (see the feature link, right, for a fuller exploration of this theory).

Homo Neanderthalis

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information by Edward Dawson, from A Genetic Signal of Central European Celtic Ancestry, David K Faux, from Investigating Archaeological Cultures: Material Culture, Variability, and Transmission, Benjamin W Roberts & Marc Vander Linden (Eds), from Palaeo-Anthropology and Palaeolithic archaeology in the people's republic of China, Wu Rukang & John W Olsen (Left Coast Press, 2009), and from External Links: Encyclopaedia Britannica, and Tracking the First Americans, Glenn Hodges (National Geographic), and East Asia Palaeolithic (Claire Smith, Ed, Encyclopaedia of Global Archaeology, 2014), and Stone Age Asia (Encyclopaedia Britannica).)


King list Ordosian Culture
(c.60,000 - 25,000 BC)

The Ordosian Upper Palaeolithic modern human culture has its type name on the Ordos plateau, southern 'Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region' in China.

King list Japan Cultures
(c.50,000 BC)

The idea of human occupation in Japan before 35,000 BC is highly contentious, but is covered here in order to include all important timeline events.

King list China Cultures
(c.12,500 BC)

The view of China's emergence into the historical record has been undergoing a revolution of rethinking in recent decades, no longer being a smooth progression.

King list Jeulmun Pottery Period
(c.8000 - 1500 BC)

The Jeulmun pottery period covers territory in the south of the Korean peninsula, extending northwards to an extent and with origins which are obscure.

King list Mumun Pottery Period
(c.1500 - 300 BC)

The Mumun arrival in the Korean peninsula has been theorised as being intrusive via newcomers rather than a progression by the local Jeulmun hunter-gatherers.

King list Seo Dansan Culture
(c.900 - 300 BC)

The Seo Dansan developed in the middle basin of the Second Songhua river in the tenth century BC, and was similar to Bronze Age Liaodong peninsula cultures.

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